Poul Nissen receives Euro 1.34 million to study the insulin receptor

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded Professor Poul Nissen a five-year grant in the form of a so-called "NNF Distinguished Investigator 2019 grant" within "Bioscience and Basic Biomedicine", which is given to researchers who have shown their ability to carry out and lead research at the very highest international level.

Poul Nissen (photo: Lisbeth Heilesen/AU)
Poul Nissen (photo: Lisbeth Heilesen/AU)

Nutrient uptake is of key importance to all organisms, and in humans it involves and controls numerous physiological processes and behavior so that we seek food and eat properly without missing nutrients or overloading our system. When eating, the food is broken down to, for example, sugars that are absorbed into the blood and form the basis of what is called blood sugar. The hormone insulin regulates and controls the transport of the sugar into the cells, where it is used as energy that enables the body to function. Insulin-like molecules are also critical drugs for the treatment of diabetics.

Insulin works by binding to molecules on cell surfaces, the so-called receptors. When insulin binds to the receptors, the transport of glucose into the cell is increased, among other things. An increase in the concentration of glucose after eating is a direct stimulator of insulin signaling. Other nutrients such as amino acids from proteins as well as fats in the diet also trigger insulin signaling.

However, the turnover of energy in the cells does not always work optimally in humans, and an imbalance in the insulin regulation can be fatal.

In order to gain a better insight into the effect of insulin, Poul Nissen and his group will study how insulin activates the receptor to activate regulation of other molecules and metabolic systems in the cell – with particular focus on these mechanisms in the brain, which is a highly energy-intensive organ. The researchers will also study an important amino acid transporter that provides for the uptake of amino acids from the gut. Amino acids are essential building blocks for all protein substances and a wide variety of signaling agents in the body.

With the new project, Poul Nissen and his group also hope to get new ideas and strategies in development of new medicine or procedures for treatment of metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, where the natural regulation through the insulin receptor does not work properly.

For further information, please contact

Professor Poul Nissen
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/DANDRITE
Aarhus University, Denmark   
pn@mbg.au.dk - +45 2899 2295